5 Quick Facts About Ethiopia (Pre-Departure Edition)

Hello everyone!

Today’s post is for anyone who does not know much about Ethiopia.  While I do not know as much as I will in a couple months, I have done some research into my future home these past few months and figured I share some of that with you!

1. Ethiopia is one of the only countries in Africa to never have been colonized


As you can see from this map, only Ethiopia (gray one on the right) and Liberia (texhnically only a protectorate under the USA) have never been colonized. The impact of colonialism is a large topic that can be saved for another post itself, but its impact on the economies of Africa have been devastating in their development.  Ethiopia has been genuinely independent from the European colonial system since its existence.  Italy occupied parts of Ethiopia, but never held long enough to establish a colony.  Just as every American reveres the American Revolution, Ethiopians take great pride in their country being indepedent from colonial rule and exploitation.

2. The Meaning of Ethiopia’s flag


Ethiopia’s current flag was adopted in 1996 after successfully overthrowing the Marixist Derg regime.  The green, yellow, and red colors have been used for centuries to represent Ethiopia since its imperial era beginning in 1137.  This color combination actually appears in many other African flags because of Ethiopia.  As African nations emerged from colonial rule, a Pan-African movement began and were inspired by Ethiopia, the oldest independent African nation, and thus adopted the colors of their flag.  Typically, green represents fertile land and hope, yellow represents justice, and red represents the sacrifice of soldiers.  The emblem was not added until 1996, and is meant to represent the unity and prosperity of the country which consists of over eighty ethnic groups.

3. Injera is the most important food staple


In terms of the culture and diet in Ethiopia, injera joins the ranks of pasta, potatoes, corn, and rice in other countries.  The best way to describe injera is that it is spongy, porous, and somwhat sweet pancake made of a grain called teff, which has the nutrient equivalency of quinoa.  Injera is ripped off from rolls to pick up from stews called wats.  All you need to do is rip off a piece about the width of your hand and grab/scoop from the meat or vegetable wat on a “platter” made of injera that will be deliciously soaked with the meats and vegetables that were served upon it. The nutrient-dense teff in the injera is an important part of an Ethiopian’s diet as it is packed with iron, protein, fiber, calcium, and many other vitamins and minerals, as well as being gluten-free.  Unfortunately, teff from Ethiopia is limited in exports due to concerns of inflating the price in the country (It is too important for the price to rise like avocados did in South American countries).  It can be grown in America, but I am told it is not of the same quality.

4. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia


The story goes that a herder’s goat was looking for something to eat and stumbled upon these berries.  The herder blamed the berries for the goat not being able to sleep at night and having a lot more energy.  The herder brought his findings to his local monastery, who used the berries in their own drinks like a tea, and discovered the same energizing effects.  Word spread and the berries and beans would eventually find their way to the Arabian peninsula and around the world and be used in different ways as a method for having more energy.  Drinking coffee is still a popular cultural tradition in Ethiopia and is one of their most important exports.

5. Time is recorded differently


This past September, Ethiopia entered 2009 because of their calendar. It operates on a thirteen month  year, with each month having 30 days except for the last which has 5 or 6, depending on if it is a leap year.  Part of the reason for this is because of the overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian population of the country, which follows the same liturgical calendar.   The reason for the year being different has to do with a disagreement on when Jesus Christ was actually born. Time of the day is also different and still makes my head hurt. Ethiopia takes advantage of their location near the equator guaranteeing twelve hours of daylight and set their 12-hour clock based on when the sun rises and sets. Therefore, what we consider 7:00 A.M is actually 1:00 in local Ethiopian time.  At 6:00 P.M, Ethiopian 12:00 begins, which will eventually lead to 1:00 at our 7:00 P.M.  For example, I am writing this at 11:23 A.M.  Even though every world clock on the internet will say that it is 7:23 P.M. in Ethiopia based on the time zone, locally it is only 1:23. Scheduling should be fun.


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